FACT CHECK: Do These Pictures Show France’s Education Minister?
An image shared on Facebook purportedly shows two pictures of France’s minister of education, one of her as a child herding sheep and another of her as an adult.
The adult woman pictured in the post is Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, France’s former minister of national education, higher education and research. The child pictured is not Vallaud-Belkacem but a girl identified only as “Fouzia,” according to its original caption.
The image shared on Facebook includes two photographs, one of a young girl holding a stick while sitting in a field and another that shows an adult woman. “The girl on the left is herding sheep in Morocco,” reads text included in the image. “The woman on the Right is the same girl 20 years later as the [sic] France’s education minister.”
A reverse image search reveals the adult woman pictured is Vallaud-Belkacem, who served as France’s minister of national education, higher education and research from 2014 to 2017, according to her biography on the European Union’s website. The same photo was published by the French-language women’s magazine Grazia in a 2014 article with a headline that translates to “10 Things to Know About Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, First Woman Minister of Education.” A nearly identical photo of her was also published in 2014 by the French newspaper 20 Minutes.
Contrary to the Facebook post’s claim, however, the other picture is not Vallaud-Belkacem as a child. Check Your Fact traced that photo to a 2015 report from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) where it is credited to the photographer Giacomo Pirozzi. While the photo bears no caption in the report, a UNICEF spokesperson told Check Your Fact in an email that “The caption we have for the photo lists the girl as being named Fouzia.”
Pirozzi confirmed in a Facebook message to Check Your Fact that he took the picture but denied that it showed the former minister. “I took the photo of this girl in Morocco, but there is no relation between this girl and the Min of Education,” said Pirozzi. (RELATED: Does This Image Show Bill Gates As A Child Wearing A Dress?)
While there is no evidence Vallaud-Belkacem is the girl in the first picture, she explained in a 2017 interview with Porter Magazine that she was born in Morocco to a poor family.
“Reports in the French press that I was a child shepherd hold a grain of truth: I was born in Morocco and lived in Bni Chiker, a mountain hamlet in the north,” said Vallaud-Belkacem. “My early childhood was spent as a country girl living with near and extended family, all under one roof. We were quite poor. I helped my grandfather with the goats, drew water from a well, and spent most of the day in flip-flops.”